How thrift makes you happy

The Myths of Happiness

The Myths of Happiness

You may have noticed that, over the last couple years, the New York Times has run several interesting articles about happiness. These reports are a fascinating scoop to be sure. And, uncoincidentally, most of these articles report findings from or are written by Sonja Lyubomirsky, including her recently published book The Myths of Happiness.

I enjoyed the book immensely and recommend anyone even vaguely intrigued read it. It’s relatively short (less than 300 pages), yet loaded with thought-provoking insights into how we regard our condition, for better or worse.

One of my favorite chapters discussed the benefits of thrift.

Although some of us associate thrift with acting cheap, miserly, or stingy, the term actually originates from the word thrive. At its essence, thrift is about the optimal, most efficient use of limited resources. Historically, thriftiness has been equated with industry (i.e., the harder we labor for rewards, the less likely we are to squander them), temperance (i.e., we control excess by practicing moderation and self-restraint), and the pursuit of fulfilling and fruitful activities (i.e., so we avoid wasting our resources on frivolous ones). Thrift has an old and honored history, having been promoted and lionized by writers, philosophers, entrepreneurs, and thinkers as diverse as Socrates, King Solomon, Confucius, Benjamin Franklin, Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, and, most recently, Warren Buffett.

We all can apply the principles of thrift in order to spend less while enjoying more, as well as to strive to ensure that limited wages don’t wholly undermine our happiness. What’s more, thrifty behavior in and of itself can make us feel good (by highlighting our better natures), impart a sense of control (by highlighting our abilities to manage our finances), and even foster success.”

This is a subject that hits close to home, being that I–like most people–am surrounded my conspicuous consumption everywhere I go. And of course, it’s a daily negotiation: Do I buy my lunch or bring it? Will I get $12 enjoyment out of a $12 cocktail?

Ways I love being cheap (er, thriving) include:

  • Walks and happy hours with friends
  • Heavy library use
  • Student discounts
  • Finding inexpensive experiences around Seattle (e.g., lectures, trivia nights, promotional events, or day trips)

What cheap habits make you proud?

To read more of Sonja Lyubomirsky’s thoughts on happiness, take a look at her articles on or check out her books.



  1. twistnpout · March 18, 2013

    I agree. For me at least, I get a great sense of satisfaction when I can make something out of something else, finding a bargain, or create something really unique out of something plain. And I love the library.

  2. ebenbow · March 21, 2013

    Great ideas, twistnpout. 🙂 I’ve been meaning to take sewing-machine lessons for that “create something really unique out of something plain” idea, and this is a fantastic reminder.

  3. Mandy · April 11, 2013

    I have also been planning to learn to use a sewing machine! What a fun way to create unique clothing with exactly the right fit!
    The Myths of Happiness looks like a great read, definitely going on my list!

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